May 12, 2012
Messrs. Leonello Gabricci and Mark Galagher
Division Middle East II
European External Action Service
Dear Mr. Gabricci and Mr. Galagher,
We are writing about the European Union’s relations with Israel, and in particular with respect to the Council of Ministers meeting next week.
There is little point in reciting another litany of Israel’s violations of human rights and international law, and how they are fundamentally inconsistent with the human rights and international law requirements of the EU-Israel Association agreement. The underlying issue is the long occupation and the settlement project, which is the most basic violation of all. The many other violations are part and parcel of Israeli repression of Palestinian resistance. Israeli governments’ basic objective has always been to take over large parts of East Jerusalem and the West Bank. There is no credible alternative explanation for the pattern of Israeli Government actions since 1967. I am sure you understand all that at least as well as we do.
The current Israeli government continues to pursue that objective, but more overtly and with much less concern for international opinion than previous governments have shown. Its obdurate refusal to commit to negotiate on the basis of the 4th June ’67 borders and its continual settlement expansion – both within and beyond the big settlements near the Green Line – make that perfectly plain.
It is self-evident that enhancing the benefits of the EU-Israel Association Agreement to Israel has not influenced Israeli governments in the slightest to moderate their objective, and certainly will not influence this one. The many disapproving statements by the High Representative and her predecessor have clearly had no effect either.
The issues for the EU are therefore whether it actually wants to influence Israel to change course, and likewise whether it wants to be seen to be seriously trying to do so. If it does, then it has to apply conditionality to Israel by withholding any further enhancements to the EU-Israel Association Agreement until Israel commits formally to negotiate in good faith on the basis of the internationally legitimate solution of the conflict. Further enhancements will only encourage Israeli governments to think they can continue on their present path and simultaneously enjoy growing benefits from the European Union.
It should also be appreciated that continuation of the occupation will lead to ever greater danger of large-scale regional conflict. The appearance of tacit complicity by the EU will lead to growing security risks in EU countries, and to the risk of de-stabilising relations with Muslim countries and consequent energy supply and price risks to Europe.
I have appended a note on the recent Israeli government approval of legalising three settlement outposts, which has far-reaching implications for the intended permanence of the occupation.
Dror Feiler, Chair of EJJP and Judar for Israelisk-Palestinsk Fred (Stockholm), Board Member of the EJJP Foundation
Arthur Goodman, Parliamentary and Diplomatic Officer, Jews for Justice for Palestinians (London)
Max Wieselmann, Board Member of the EJJP Foundation, Director of Een Ander Joods Geluid (Amsterdam)
A far-reaching decision was recently taken by an Israeli Government Ministerial Committee which significantly extends settlement expansion in the West Bank. The Committee approved the legalization of three settlement outposts, Sansea, Ruchana and Bruchin. Once planning procedure is approved, they will be fully “legal” under Israeli law.
The significance of these approvals is twofold. Firstly, it is the first time an Israeli government has approved legalizing an outpost. Previously, Israeli governments simply left the outposts in limbo. They were not approved by the government, but nevertheless were provided with infrastructure and services. Since the Oslo II Agreement in 1996, official settlement building, i.e. approved by the Israeli government and therefore legal under Israeli law, has always been by expanding existing settlements. Secondly, none of the three outposts is in a large settlement that might become part of Israel in a land swap, or in the built-up area of any existing settlement, and two are far from the Green Line.
The implication of these approvals is clear: the Israeli government is no longer going to pretend that it is only expanding in the large settlements near the Green Line that are likely to be exchanged in a land swap. It is a marker of its intention to keep large parts of the West Bank.
The reactions of the US, UK, EU and the UN make it clear that they understand the significance of these approvals. The Financial Times (editorial attached), among other newspapers, has come to the same conclusion. It also realizes that other countries must ”go beyond mere rhetorical condemnation.”
settlements and outposts
Settlements are Jewish communities that Israel officially established after 1967 on Palestinian land occupied in the Six-Day War. Today, there are 120 settlements in the West Bank and 12 (called neighbourhoods by the Israeli government) in East Jerusalem. There are some 290,000 settlers in the West Bank and 190,000 in East Jerusalem. The Government of Israel has invested and continues to invest heavily in the construction and defence of settlements.
Outposts are settlements “unofficially” established since the 1990s. In order to skirt political and international obligations, Israel calls them “illegal” or “unauthorized” outposts. There are now 99,
with over 4,000 settlers living in them. At rare intervals, a rudimentary outpost, consisting of mobile homes, is removed by the IDF, only to be reerected by the settlers nearby.
All settlements and outposts are illegal under international law because they are in occupied land.